Haunted Dreams

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By Justin Pickett

She was surely the largest bass I would have caught on a fly, I thought to myself as I studied her every move.

Taking notes of her general attitude and behavior towards the other fish around her. I stumbled upon her while walking the banks of a public pond near my house and quickly retreated up the nearby knoll. I frequent here often, and this place is known for producing some hefty Largemouth Bass. Spring is in full effect and the spawn is in full swing. Buck bass hover over the beds dotted along the shallows, and, with the angling pressure seen here, the females hold well off the bed and out of sight for the most part. For this reason, I’m surprised to find this big gal so close to the bank, sitting in barely enough water to cover her folded dorsal. Her bed is tucked in a corner surround by lilies and submerged timber. It’s where you would expect to see a bed. Her male companion is constantly chasing off bluegills and anything else that might come within a couple feet of him and his unhatched brood. Meanwhile, big girl sits calmly, about six feet away, tucked underneath some of the lilies, but in plain view of anyone with a sharp eye and some polarized shades.

Leaning against a big pine, I contemplate my approach as I watch her glide back and forth, unbothered by the happenings around her. It’s an ideal situation. She’s not overly stimulated and the overcast conditions provide me with a little more cover while also voiding any chances of casting shadows. The surrounding lily pads also give a great angle of approach, allowing me to creep in behind her to decrease my chances of being seen even more. The next task is picking out the fly to tie on. I’m likely to only get one shot at this fish. One shot. One fly. So what’s it going to be?

I wanted a pattern that was going to aggravate her and provoke a strike, but without being so irritating that she would flee the scene. What I decided on was a Jiggy Craw, tied by Pat Cohen. I went with the orange/brown color scheme to ensure that it was easily seen in the stained water. I also knew this fly would have good movement in the water even when lightly twitched. After checking my leader, I tie on this “chosen one” and double check my knot.

Now the moment of truth. Time to make my move and present my fly.

Just off the bank, there was a small opening in the lilies between her and the bed that I could pitch my fly into. This window was about a yardstick across, which I hoped would be enough room for everything to play out. While a little different from the normal tactic of tossing a fly on the bed, I had confidence that if I presented her with something “threatening”, then she would likely strike. This also took the male out of the equation, keeping him from snapping up my fly before his mate could.

After quietly creeping into position, I knelt down to one knee and made my play. My fly slipped quietly into the water and landed along the bottom just a couple feet from where she was lying. I noticed big mama immediately turn her body in the direction of my fly. I can see her tracking my fly as I slowly crawl it along the bottom, adding slight twitches here and there to ensure I get as much movement out of the materials as possible. As the fly gets closer to her, and me, she begins to position herself perpendicular to the fly’s path. As the fly approaches within what seems like inches of her, I can see her behavior change from cool and calm to agitated. I can tell that she’s about to strike. As I make my last strip and dance my fly along the mud, I realize that something has gone terribly wrong. My fly has now drifted underneath a set of lilies and I’m completely blind. I cringe. As a last ditch effort to find my fly, I stand up. I still can’t see my fly, but what I can see is this very large bass hovering below the edge of the lilies. Head down and ass up, right over the area that I believe to be the location of my fly. I couldn’t see all of her though. Just from her pectoral fins back to her tail was visible. Everything else was shrouded by broad, green pads.

In a split second, I made the decision to take my cues from the fish and didn’t make a move. As I stared intently into the water, I saw the fish make a sudden move forward and down. In my head, I thought surely this was her making her move and attacking my fly.

So I pulled the trigger!   Wham!

I’m startled from sleep by the sound and the somewhat painful sensation of my right hand slamming into the head board of my bed.

The dogs are barking. The wife is awake. And I’m sitting up in bed laughing and cursing this damn fish.

So as it turned out, when I went for the hookset on that behemoth of a bass, I swung and I missed… Big time. I was never sure of what exactly happened because the last few seconds were completely obscured from view. Regardless, I was left fish-less. And big mama bolted for cover, never to be seen again.

We talk about missed fish, and the “one that got away” all the time with our buddies, but this was the first fish that had made into my dreams and haunted me to the point of reenacting the scenario in my sleep. I guess I thought I could do better in my dreams? Obviously not! That was my second swing and miss on the same fish in the same day!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “Haunted Dreams

  1. Nice piece.
    An old newspaper editor I once worked for had an expression for those times when you do everything right and the situation still goes toes up: “Some days you buy a duck and it drowns.”

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